Dr. Ralph Robertson has seen patients for over 20 years at the Lackey Clinic in Yorktown. Now he sees them through a computer screen while at home on the Northern Neck in Kilmarnock.
“It’s a very satisfying experience to help someone out quickly, give them a general idea of what’s going on, advice and sometimes a prescription,” he says.
Last week, the clinic’s telehealth services expanded to accept patients from across the state as demand for prompt, remote medical care increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
According to a telehealth report by consulting firm McKinsey and Company published in July.
“A lot of these patients just have a toothache or have a minor problem, but don’t have multiple medical issues like a lot of our regular patients do,” Robertson said.
Even for those on Medicaid, it’s difficult to find a provider in a timely manner and so people end up in the emergency room, according to Amber Martens, director of eligibility at the Lackey Clinic.
“There’s such a problem with access to health care in Virginia,” she said.
These issues range from lack of insurance to lack of transportation to a clinic where they can get care, according to Martens.
In a 15-minute virtual appointment, patients can meet with a doctor who can see their face and assess their medication needs. Doctors can also prescribe medication, if needed, for the patient, and translation services are provided if needed, Martens said.
Services include telehealth, telecounselling and teledental, all provided by board-certified physicians who have emergency room training, according to documents from the Lackey Clinic and Martens.
Any adult in Virginia who earns less than $41,000 a year is eligible to get virtual emergency care of the clinic, while other telehealth patients must be uninsured, according to Marterns.
Most of the patients seen by the clinic’s seven telehealth doctors need help with a dental problem, she said.
“We see patients who have Medicaid and can’t find a Medicaid dentist to see them,” she said.
The program started in March of last year, but expanded statewide last week, according to clinic CEO Larry Trumbore.
The clinic purchased new technology at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and found volunteers to staff the new telehealth platform, he said.
“We knew that in our service there are 29,000 households that didn’t have insurance and probably had nowhere to go,” Trumbore said.
When the Lackey Clinic service started a year ago, it cost $35, but as the clinic slashed prices and then made it free, usage has grown rapidly, Trumbore says.
A patient on the ward was on an island off Gloucester County, according to Martens.
“They don’t have a doctor right around the corner or walk-in emergency care 40 or 50 miles from them,” she said.
Two of the clinic’s telehealth doctors are also based in Northern Virginia, Martens said.
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The clinic’s relationships with hospital systems help deliver services like the newly expanded free telehealth service, Robertson said.
Free and discounted health care providers, such as the Lackey Clinic, help provide care to people who might not otherwise get it and thus can help reduce the onset of extreme health conditions that would lead to bills. important and emergency room visits. , according to Robertson.
“They support us while we care for patients to keep them healthy and out of the ER, which is an exorbitant expense,” he said.
The Lackey Clinic recently received $105,000 from the Sentara Healthier Communities grant in conjunction with the City of Newport News to expand telehealth operations, according to Mertens.
Grant money will be used to expand virtual emergency care and telehealth visits, hire a new community health worker, strengthen translation services, and provide virtual emergency care at the Four Oaks Day Service Center, she said.
The center, run by the city, helps people get out of homelessness, according to the Newport News website.
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